Dumbing down (21 points)

It’s a good thing we had Nan the Great cremated. Otherwise the people of Salisbury would currently be experiencing minor earth tremors due to a rapidly rotating body in a grave somewhere. The makers of Scrabble, so the Today Programme reported this morning, have changed the rules to allow proper nouns. To put it another way, for the benefit of the kind of people who need this rule change, you can use names now innit.

Nan, who would pass the time by memorising the approved list of two letter words (and there are a surprising number of them), would not approve. In fact she forced us to introduce a new family rule, which is that the player of the word must at least know (or have a good idea; appeal to other players is permitted) what the word actually means. That way we might still have all been thrashed on a regular basis but it was with a bit more dignity. And educational.

One of the reasons I dislike point-and-shoot video games is that you might get hit and killed by the enemy, but guess what, suddenly you’re back! Or you can carry an infinite array of weapons around that you change with a click. This is not challenging. Games are meant to combine a measure of luck (e.g. what letters you have in your bag) with skill (e.g. what you do with them) and those two factors combined make it a challenge. This rule reduces the challenge level of Scrabble by about 75%. I will stop now before I start sounding like the Daily Mail. I have my pride, in case you hadn’t gathered.

One question mark over the BBC report: it says Mattel are bringing out a version of the game with new rules but will continue to sell the old version. Presumably the only difference between the two is the rulebooks and the boards stay exactly the same? Hmm. It couldn’t be a cunning marketing ploy aimed at the kind of people who need to use proper nouns … could it?

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